Top Music Picks of 2018 (That I Actually Listened To)

2018 was a year of new music from established favorites, debut full-lengths from up-and-coming artists, and singles in advance of forthcoming releases

As 2018 comes to a close, so too does my time at KCR, at San Diego State, and in San Diego in general. Between bouts of crying and while avoiding thinking about returning to Canada (the land of arctic boredom and a much more affordable healthcare system), I’ve spent some time reflecting on the new music released in 2018 that has soundtracked my California existence.

Southern California is a melting pot for the surf, garage, and punk genres, music that’s perfect for cruising down the freeway in the sunshine to (check out the undercard for this year’s Tropicalia Festival lineup and you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about). As such, the majority of the new music I’ve been listening to and seeing live this year has come from bands based in California. However, the Golden State is almost always a stop for touring bands, so I’ve also had the chance to hear new stuff from those that hail from outside our perfect West Coast bubble.

So as a final parting gift to the loyal readers of my KCR blog posts (read: people on my Facebook friends list), I present to you: California Andrayah’s* favorite music released in 2018. As a fun bonus, I’ve included the most fitting freeways and neighborhoods to serve as a backdrop for your listening, based on my personal experiences. Let’s be real: you need a car to get around in San Diego, and since you can’t pick up AM 1610 all over the county, you’re going to need to play your own music if you can’t listen to San Diego’s Best AM/FM Radio Station according to The San Diego Union-Tribune 2018 Reader’s Poll. I’m talking about KCR here. It’s us. We’re the best.

*as an (un)interesting aside, every person I’ve met in California has pronounced my name like An-DRAY-ah. Technically, I am actually AN-dree-ah. I might stick with my new moniker, though, in an effort to try to convince myself I’m still in San Diego, going to Better Buzz four times a week and drinking alone at the Ugly Dog Bar when they’ve got a sour on special for $3 Tuesdays.

Records:

hoodratscumbags – Beach Goons

hoodratscumbags

Logan Heights’ Beach Goons released hoodratscumbags this August, and my introduction to the band was through this record on the day it came out. If you were lucky enough to catch them at The Live Wire, KCR’s new flagship concert series, back in September, you know that Beach Goons offers SoCal surf/garage rock with a Cumbia twist. hoodratscumbags marks the first release for Beach Goons in a couple years and the new record was highly anticipated by their fans. Founding member Pablo Cervantez sought to recognize Beach Goons’ Chicano/Mexican heritage with their new music, and songs like “Chunti” and “A.M.” really emphasize this influence.

Top picks: Vatos Tristes, Hrsb

Best use: Is it lame to listen to Beach Goons while driving down Logan Avenue? Maybe, but I’ve done it. Otherwise, hoodratscumbags is a good choice for driving around Ocean Beach. Consider playing it as you roll up to the Robb Field Skate Park so the skaters know you’re down with the local music scene. I recently bought my first skateboard, and this is a fact that I like to make known as much as possible.

My Own Mess – Skegss

My Own Mess

Australian garage/surf trio Skegss released their debut full-length back in September before embarking on a tour of their homeland with Chicago’s Twin Peaks. Maybe it’s Australia’s similar climate and its cultural emphasis on surfing, but My Own Mess fits right in with our SoCal music scene. It’s chock-full of slacker anthems about partying, watching TV, and fucking up. My favorite track on the record, “Margarita”, is one of those rare songs that I heard and instantly fell in love with, immediately qualifying it for Banger Status. If you’re a fan of bands like The Frights, SWMRS, or FIDLAR, you’ll probably be stoked on Skegss.

Top picks: Margarita, My Mind

Best use: Skegss is the band you want to start your day with. Not if your day consists of school or work, but when your day will be spent doing something fun, like laying on the beach or skateboarding. I have a skateboard now, so I can relate to this. My Own Mess is reserved for the 8 West (never the 8 East – this ain’t for driving home at the end of your fun day) on your way to the beach, or maybe the 5/805 North, if you’re bougie and heading to a beach in La Jolla.

I Don’t Run – Hinds

I Don't Run

This April, Hinds released I Don’t Run as a follow up to their debut record, 2016’s Leave Me Alone. Their sophomore effort is similar to Leave Me Alone musically, but it’s not a carbon copy. The all-girl garage rock group from Madrid, Spain digs a little deeper on I Don’t Run, and lyrically the songs get personal and serious at times. That’s not to say the music is slow and sad – the record still largely consists of the irresistibly fun and catchy songs Hinds is well known for.

Top picks: Tester, Rookie

Best use: Take a girls-only day trip to Los Angeles and put on I Don’t Run as you roll down Melrose Avenue scoping out your next Instagram photo op. Otherwise, a fun and semi-manipulative idea is to play “Tester” when driving with a guy who you suspect could be cheating on you, particularly for the lyric “Should I have known before you were also banging her?” I’m not actually speaking from experience here (give me a little credit), but I could see myself doing this. Or at least considering it.

Onion – Shannon and the Clams

Onion

I think Shannon and the Clams is one of the most underrated bands of our time. They blend doo-wop, surf, and garage rock into a unique sound that’s perfectly nostalgic, a sound that’s not often heard these days. I’m usually more of a music person than a lyrics person, but the lyrics on Onion‘s tracks stand out with their raw emotion and poignant themes. Set to the Clams’ signature retro instrumentals, the result is foot-tapping, danceable songs that are painfully beautiful underneath.

If I had to pick one record from this list to recommend to someone who hadn’t heard any of them, in the hopes that they would discover a new band to obsess over, it would be Onion. Send tweet.

Top picks: If You Could Know, The Boy

Best use: I like to listen to Shannon and the Clams during the rare times when I’m in 5:30 PM traffic, because I can be safely reckless and dance along to it while driving. A favorite spot is getting off the 163 and onto the 8, near Fashion Valley. It takes fifteen minutes to move half a mile – you can dance through the first five songs on the record while you wait.

The Dream and the Deception – The Aquadolls

The Dream and the Deception

Like Shannon and the Clams, I think The Aquadolls don’t get nearly the amount of recognition they deserve. The tracklist for The Dream and the Deception features nineteen songs that span the emotional spectrum, from sad to silly to pissed off. Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Melissa Brooks’ commitment to The Aquadolls is admirable – she self-released this record online in October and has plans to press it in on vinyl via her own label in the new year.

Top picks: Cigboi, Communicationissexy/Idkhow2communicate

Best use: My top picks above are fitting for driving home on the 94 East on a moody, rainy Friday night. You’ve left-swiped through everyone on Tinder and you’re feeling hopeless and lonely. “Why am I so alone?” you cry, as you ignore everyone and make no effort to meet people. Switch over to something more upbeat and positive, like “I’m a Star”, to remind yourself that you are, in fact, a star.

3 – Sextile

3

Good god, do I love Sextile. I love getting into music that’s a lot different than the usual things I listen to (see every other record on this list), and Sextile stands in stark contrast to the reverb-heavy surf rock that’s so popular in Southern California.  The Los Angeles based duo is not like anything I’ve ever heard – all the headbang-inducing and moshpit-inciting energy of punk with the added twist of a new wave dance beat. If you’ve ever wanted to go to a club and dance all night amid cool visuals, but you’re a bit too punk rock for something like that, check out Sextile.

Top picks: Spun, Paradox

Best use: Don’t listen to this in your car. See them live! Dance around in the strobe lights! Inhale the smoke machine smoke! Get slammed into and have your front row spot taken by a psycho ex! It’s all part of the experience.

Hypochondriac – The Frights

Hypochondriac

The Frights put out their third record, Hypochondriac, on Epitaph Records after signing with the punk label earlier this year. It’s quite a departure from 2016’s You Are Going To Hate This, and an even farther trip from 2013’s The Frights. Many of the songs are a lot softer and sadder, with the exception of the pop-punk/emo track “CRUTCH”. The new sound is good in its own right, but if you’re looking for the same surf-inspired tunes that put The Frights on the map, you’re going to need to look elsewhere.

Top picks: Alone, Whatever

Best use: The Frights will always remind me of driving on the 8 East and taking the College Avenue exit to get back to State (shoutout to “Cold” from The Frights for being my spring 2018 anthem). Otherwise, the driving vibe can vary: sometimes I’m shouting along angrily to “Over It” as I drive to the Taco Bell at University/College, sometimes I’m crying to “Goodbyes” on the 5. It’s a spectrum.

Singles:

“Drip” – The Marías and Triathalon

Drip

A definite outlier on this list, but if Statistics 101 taught me anything, it’s that…outliers exist? They validate your data? I don’t know. Anyway, this is a cool song. The Marías call themselves a “psychedelic soul” band, and Triathalon makes lo-fi R&B. The union of the two results in a multi-layered song that coalesces flawlessly – The Marías come in first with their signature funky-yet-smooth sound, Triathalon enters with a slowed-down, dreamy verse, and they link up in the outro. It is, in a word, a vibe.

Best use: This one’s a bit tricky. It’s definitely a nighttime song, but it’s not a party song. Play this at the end of the night, when you’re winding down and driving home after drinks at Sycamore Den in Normal Heights. The freeway is nearly empty and you can really feel the groove.

“Are You High?” – FIDLAR

Are You High?

Where can I download this damn song, FIDLAR? One of four tracks released by the band in 2018 (together with “Alcohol”, “Too Real”, and “Can’t You See”, from their upcoming third record Almost Free), it seems “Are You High?” was only released along with a music video on YouTube. It’s a shame, as this song is catchy as hell. It’s FIDLAR through and through, with strong guitars and lyrics referencing struggles with addiction. Guess you’ll just have to catch it at one of their live shows.

Best use: I’ve only ever listened to this on my Macbook while sitting in bed. So that, I guess.

“Glo Ride” – Hot Flash Heat Wave

Glo Ride

When I asked Nathan Blum and Ted Davis of Hot Flash Heat Wave (flex) if “Glo Ride” was indicative of what was to come for the band, Davis confirmed that their next record would be full of “headier, but still pop-oriented songs” like it. That appears to be the case, as they’ve since released two more songs that are in the same vein as this one. HFHW definitely seems to be heading in a more psychedelic direction, and “Glo Ride” is leading the way.

Actually, now that I’m listening to it again, this song is more similar to “Drip” than it is to the other music featured in this list. I’m not sure how this data affects the validity of my claims here. Oh well. Who really needs statistics? Just kidding. Stay in school, Aztecs.

Best use: I don’t really want to say this is a good makeout song, but… this is a good makeout song. Find a spot to park, and I’ll leave it at that.

Check out this Spotify playlist for all of the songs mentioned here.

Written by: Andrea Renney

Behind the Mic: Soundwave Transmission

When you hear the word “library,” genre-transcending music and quirky banter isn’t the first thing that pops to mind (at least I don’t think. I’m not going to pretend I know what you’re about).

However, that’s exactly where senior Michaela Hoover and sophomore Fabrizio Lacarra Ramirez began their friendship turned co-hostship of KCR’s very own “Soundwave Transmission.”

“I was trying to get some papers done,” Michaela says of the reason she went to the library that fateful day when she met Fabrizio. “I literally sat down next to him and we started talking for like an hour. I got no homework done at all and we’ve been really good friends ever since.”

This fall semester was their first season of “Soundwave Transmission,” a music show that prides itself on not sticking to any one genre and never playing the same song twice.

“It’s just a ‘good music’ show. Any song that’s good, we’ll throw it on the show,” explains Michaela. “Any song that gets us excited, any song that makes us feel fresh and invigorated, it goes on the playlist.”

“It makes it kind of special because every time you listen in to the show, that’ll be the only time you hear a song for our show,” adds Fabrizio. “So it’s like if you missed the show this week, you’re not going to get those songs and you might miss out on some stuff that you really like. So listen, basically.”

Fabrizio is in charge of curating the archive of music. During their downtime, the two hosts add music to the general playlist and Fabrizio then creates the song list for a given week’s show. He’s found a system that efficiently does two things: provides musical variety and satisfies both hosts’ preferences. The former is a given. The latter may be trickier when you describe your music tastes as a “Venn diagram” as Fabrizio does. However, he’s mastered the art of song selection.

“I like a little bit of jazz and more hip-hop, some electronica and more indie music whereas she likes a lot of jazz, Spanish music or music in different languages.”

During the creation of playlists, Fabrizio consciously pulls one of his music songs from the master list, one of Michaela’s, one of his, one of hers, etc. etc. repeat.

Because this is their first semester hosting for KCR, they had to overcome some challenges that exist with starting a radio show. The biggest? Remembering not to swear.

“The first two or three shows, I was cussing at least twice,” says Michaela (Don’t worry Brett, she pressed the button). “I would beat myself up for it and I’m better at it. I don’t think I’ve cussed in a while.”

“We almost had a slip up today, but I caught myself,” Fabrizio laughs.

Michaela chimes in. “I totally set him up to say something gross.”

Another lesson they learned was embracing the uneasiness of transitions. Fabrizio says they now accept their style and are “awkward on purpose.” Michaela describes the duo as “pretty dorky” and says they were trying really hard to be cool the first few episodes, but eventually came to the conclusion that they were better off embracing their own quirky voices and using that genuine approach to have a better show.

If you, the reader, are thinking “Dang, this show sounds awesome. I can’t wait to listen to it next semester,” then get ready to have your heart broken. Go ahead, sit down, grab some tissues. I’ve got something to tell you.

Michaela is headed to Spain next semester, so the duo will become an uno for the time being. Fabrizio will continue the show in the spring and keep up the same style and concept, planning on bringing in different guest hosts each week. While he has no plans on experimenting with “Soundwave Transmission” because he considers it to be their “baby,” he will also be co-hosting another show in the spring called “AJ Squared.” It is there that he may try his hand at new risks and creative ideas.

The hosts’ biggest goal this semester with “Soundwave Transmission” was to introduce their audience to new music while hosting a safe space in the radio waves.

Their go-to order at Taco Bell?

Michaela: Cinnamon Twists

Fabrizio: Nacho Cheese Dorito Taco

 

Written by: Monica Vigil
*Fabrizio doesn’t know what time the show will be next semester, but this semester it was Thursdays at noon. Follow their Instagram and say what’s up: @soundwave.kcr

A NGHTMRE Before Xmas at the Observatory North Park

Although Halloween has passed, it was most definitely a NGHTMRE before XMAS at the Observatory North Park.

The American EDM DJ/producer NGHTMRE, made his anticipated NGHTMRE before Xmas tour stop in San Diego the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, bringing a crowd of headbangers to break their necks to the electrifying drum and bass, trap, bass house and dubstep bass lines.

Coming from a college student who was glad that Thanksgiving break was finally here, Wednesday night felt more like a weekend night out with NGHTMRE providing the sounds such as his classic “Street,” to his “GUD VIBRATIONS” collaboration with Slander, to his more recent work with The ChainsmokersSave Yourself.”

He definitely brought the atmosphere to the crowd with the LED panels behind him displaying his zombie, pumpkin head skeleton and demon visuals, the synchronized lights and strobes flashing right in front of your face and even the vibe he would put out either by talking into the mic, or just him moving and dancing to his own music.

As all other DJs/producers, NGHTMRE had some in developments (IDs) that he teased the crowd with. One that stood out was his surprising collaboration with A$AP Ferg. Although he completely stopped the music and brought the room to a blackout to announce the collab, Ferg’s voice is definitely one you cannot mistaken.

As he starts playing the track, you start hearing Ferg rap over the beat and into the buildup, adding to the intensity when all of a sudden, the beat drops. Right away, you realize the utter filth of bass, brass and synthesizers that was just unleashed to your eardrums; filth that you want to be released already but probably will not happen until another six months from now (EDM DJ/producers take a long time to release their work).

Overall, NGHTMRE did not disappoint and brought some light to the souls of the undead and told his story of the NGHMTRE before XMAS.

Review by: Gustavo Cristobal

Kodaline at the House of Blues

Kodaline gave their audience a taste of the weekend with their thrilling and riveting performance at the House of Blues.

 

The concert was opened by Ocean Park Standoff, a band consisting of Samantha Ronson, Pete Nappi, and Ethan Thompson. The group was energetic throughout their entire set, especially Thompson, who couldn’t help but jump around the stage. It was hard not sing along, especially as the singer about to dive right into the audience. Plus, the band members chemistry was impeccable, as the three cracked jokes throughout their set. They got right along, offering words of advice before continuing onto their next song, “Good News:” “If you had any bad news this week, fuck ‘em.” With their youthful spirit, Ocean Park Standoff encouraged us to let go and enjoy. It just made everyone excited for the rest of the night.

Kodaline’s entrance was silent, but their entrance caused the crowd to go wild. They started with “Follow Your Fire”, a song from their newest album “Politics of Living”.  Known originally as 21 Demands, the group started in Dublin, Ireland with Steve Carrigan (vocals, guitar) and Mark Prendergast (guitar) as founding members of the group. The name later changed to Kodaline with the addition of Jason Boland (bass guitar) and Vinny May Jr. (drums).

 

With the moody lights and simple stage set, Kodaline focused on what was important: their music. Seemingly in his own world, main singer Steve Garrigan had his eyes closed for a majority of the songs. Though it was a contrast from Ocean Park Standoff’s interactive stage presence, Kodaline’s style of performance was just as captivating.

Listening to their music in such an environment made their vocals sound even more raw. I had always loved their music, listening on my phone or through Youtube, but to hear it in person, was an experience. Being apart of the audience felt like a dream, with everyone swaying in a trance to a deep pulse. If I had another chance to go listen and see Kodaline, I would not need a lot of convincing. Not only is their music amazing, their performance and stage presence must be seen in person. Kodaline has come a long way since their humble beginnings as a two-man band, and their fans and other music enthusiasts should look forward to their future projects indefinitely.

Review by: Veronica Yoo